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And Shame The Devil

Chapter Text

Even within the heat-shimmer depths of his own release, Erik shudders with a second wave of almost intolerable delight. The pulsing under-rhythm of mental pleasure which, like scent, is the powerful author of memory. Throughout their long separation, he had never quite been able to properly recall just how Charles felt, particularly in the psychic sense-- though he'd had hours enough to invest in trying. Now-- like any particular aroma, taste, or clear high note-- he feels a recognition so deep and instant that he is loathe to leave the moment, and all the others it recalls.

Here is Charles, flushed in the jewel-shadows thrown by one of the ridiculous mansion windows, laughing too loudly even as he scolds Lehnsherr to be quiet, that the children may still be up and about. Settling against Erik in the back of some rented vehicle while the toccata of rain makes the roads impassible and the metal-bender's groans are muffled against the leather seat. Charles, naked in the dawn light of some desert hotel room, the radio playing 'Heatwave' while he says, 'Well then?' with a raised eyebrow and endowments shown to best advantage.

A thousand little things-- old things, yes, but carefully preserved and given new vibrancy by their sharing. By Charles' matching memories of Erik in each place and time. The cohesion of their perspectives is natural, unintentional, and very telling. Which, indeed, is the greater liability? To have felt so strongly then, or to hold on so tightly now? Still, Lehnsherr digs mental heels in only when the professor does, seasoning pleasure with shame and the volatility of one caught not naked, but wounded. They fight nostalgia for those by-gone days like they fight each other; fiercely and with just as little ultimate success. There's a bitter taste on both their tongues, but Erik drinks it down with pointed gusto.

 

Finally, the older mutant releases Charles' cock with a gasp, pulling back only far enough to once more lay his head on the professor's thigh. Miserly, he licks his lips, thumbs moving in circular caresses where they rest against the telepath's sides. A little higher than of old, in deference to the alerted landscape. Non-existent heavenly powers, the way he smells inspires mental vigor even if Lehnsherr isn't quite ready to respond again physically. He's impatient with himself, and that too is among the riot of images-- how he nearly fell upon Charles that first time, famished, needy, almost a novice and wanting to do everything at once. The professor had laughed, they'd wrestled playfully as the more experienced party tried to take the lead and Erik, never shy about diving in headlong, became so engrossed in his survey that actual coupling became (somewhat) less of a priority. A weakness, an indulgence, but he'd never felt so enflamed before, as though his lover must be both gathered up and drowned in. He wants--

 

"Erik, you're bleeding."

Those same hands that cosseted him now push Lehnsherr away. For all the brief but perfect intertwining they experienced earlier, the metal-bender still doesn't have a precise read on Xavier's thoughts. He hardly needs particulars though, not when he can feel the nauseous rallying of shame, fear, and self-doubt. Charles' arrogance has always stemmed from his bizarre mixture of scientific certitude and moral discernment, and there's not much of either to be had at the moment. Everything is bleeding out from that beloved form; the self-assurance, the angry justification, the lust that ached for fulfillment-- everything that wrought the lure which so effectively reeled Erik

(home, home, you know this is home)

to the mansion tonight. In its place is a hollowness the former prisoner knows, though its texture is quite different from his own experience. It howls, portentous, like a wind through endless caverns, sapping one's strength even before the long march has begun. Erik realizes, belatedly, that his own mind may have been just as much a respite for the professor as Xavier's was to him, difficult though that may be to believe. Whatever haven they've conjured between them is dissipating and, though his soul already prickles with the coming chill, he clings determinedly to the warmth of Charles' lap.

"Let me see," the professor insists. The tone of his voice is flat and shaken, a clear sign that he is already distancing himself from the intimacy only moments ago. He's pulled away to the edges of Erik's mute and groping psyche. The few lingering tendrils are so faint as to be almost agonizing and, when he forces the older mutant out of his lap, it is entirely a matter of physical motion and leverage. The thorough check for wounds that follows is equally ungainly-- avoiding frantic, but falling far short of the evening's earlier poise.

Somewhat miraculously, neither the stitches on Lehnsherr's scalp nor his his bandaged neck have recommenced bleeding. The actual source is a long scratch on Erik's shoulder; perhaps a bit deeper than such usually inflicted by fingernails, but of no ultimate consequence. As soon as that's been determined, he tries to lean forward once more, but his only consolation lies in the fact that he growls when denied, rather than whimpering.

"Hold still," Charles says, putting no true impetus behind it. He's trying to bend closer, perhaps to compensate for the diminishing firelight, but Erik will not have it. Capturing that wide artisan's palm, he finds the smear of red and the darkened responsible nail, devoting himself to licking and sucking both free of blood. "You seem rather fixated on dirtying my hands." Reproachful-- perhaps a bit self-mocking-- but Xavier still refrains from imposing any real consequences. Lehnsherr doesn't deny the sarcastic metaphor; it isn't far from the truth. By the same token, however, there is also a great deal Erik would do to shield his lover, to carry banner and sword into battle in Charles' name. That thought is definitely overheard, for the telepath hisses as though burned. No matter-- he would rather have Charles angry than embroiled in a contemplation of his own powers and the moral implications of said.

 

Silence wends itself between their heartbeats, which are no longer anything even approaching a tandem set. The lurking flames of the professor's mental presence are dwindling more quickly than the fire, and he's hastily trying to tidy the dressing gown with his free hand. This close, Lehnsherr can see each gold and pearlescent stitch of the flowing embroidered birds, graceful against the rich vermillion fabric. He thinks of yanking at it, tearing away the fretwork creatures until its just his kohl, his creature of fire and starlight in his arms. Surely Charles would stop him, really stop him, if he tried to scoop the telepath up as he once had, knowing any physical struggle would now be even more vastly unequal.

 

"Bastard!" Xavier seethes-- a flare, a fire-wheel, a flash grenade in metal-bender's mind. "You bastard!"

Magneto lets out a small grunt of surprise upon suddenly finding himself a few feet away, now kneeling on the hardwood floor. There's that pinch again, even as the anger in Charles' physical expression begins to fade. Good G-d, is that what the telepath objects to-- the name Erik has taken for himself?

"That's not a name," the professor says with profound assurance. "That's not you."

"Isn't it?" the fugitive asks, raising an eyebrow. He wonders at Xavier's reluctance to acknowledge the appellation, since the professor certainly isn't shy about laying Magneto's crimes at Erik's feet. So it's not a matter of denial. No, more likely its some aesthetic or philosophical concern. Something that offends Charles' sense of intellectual architecture and rigor.

 

Lehnsherr rather thinks he does have concrete and classical reasons behind taking the theatrical name. It's childish to some degree; it was certainly intended that way when Mystique first sarcastically tossed out the notion. Yet so are the dybbuk and kobold which served-- among so many others-- to embody primitive man's fear of the unknown. Up close the trappings and gaudy dye of any opera villain look merely tawdry but, from the rafters, they serve to vividly outline those fears the audience has already brought with them.

They'd actually had a rather lengthy discussion about it once-- himself, Mystique, and Janos. Granted, the discourse had been augmented by a long Scandinavian night and potent, rather pricy spirits-- all courtesy of Shaw's taste for lavish safe-houses. The entire nascent Brotherhood had helped themselves quite heartily, for the monster-doktor himself would have no further use for such things. The atmosphere had become somewhat celebratory, as if they were tricksters kicking at the dirt of Klaus Schmidt's grave. It was the first and perhaps only time real camaraderie crept into what was essentially a practical alliance. Azazel had chimed in as well, musing over the naming of things and the power this endowed, tail twitching as if to underscore the source of his own title. In an odd reversal of public behavior, he'd seemed rather inclined to let Janos speak for them both, and the solemn wind-caster had already discovered a penchant for poking fun at the girl who'd once been called 'Raven'. So playfully arrogant and vivacious Magneto's second had been, claiming credit for his title and, subtly needling, expounding on her own appropriation of the 'feminine mystique'.

 

Predictably, Erik is presently treated to a narrowing of Xavier's blue eyes, and a slight drain of color beneath newly trimmed beard. The memory is doubtless something Charles would have welcomed on the plane-- a more appropriate answer to 'how was she?' than the metal-bender's neat party line and implication of the carnal. Now, of course, its an unbidden reminder of the sister adopted without question, the girl Magneto coaxed away with such apparent ease. For the briefest of moments, he catches a flash of how her brother saw her; laughing, smiling, full of expansive gestures and the desire to be what she had always been, underneath. Erik isn't sure exactly what passed between the 'siblings' on the White House lawn, but he quite clearly remembers the delicate traceries of hope in those golden eyes-- both then, and when they'd interrupted Mystique's capture in Paris. How quick and eager she'd been, to confirm that Charles had come for her!

('And then you shot her,') the telepath sends, as if he isn't applying his powers, tracing the chain of reasoning Erik himself had followed in that moment, always picking and choosing. If Lehnsherr sometimes thinks of Charles as a hypocrite, it stems from frustration rather than real disrespect. Erik knows himself to be one; all that unwilling but utterly natural affection juxtaposed with his pontifications about 'the Cause'. For a few short moments, it would have been safer for all of them

(safer for Charles)

if Mystique were dead. Simple mathematics had taken over, and Magneto remains disturbed as to how his own duplicity would play out if Xavier is ever on the other side of the equation. He can only hope-- in the ill-practiced way of one unfamiliar with the emotion-- that he never has to find out.

When the younger man begins shaking his head, Lehnsherr thinks at first that it must be a response to what he's seen-- that he's about to be lectured about his penchant for queen sacrifices. But no, it is too slow, too weighted for that alone. Somewhere, one of Sharon Xavier's seemingly endless, figurine-dotted clocks chimes. Too loud to miss, too far away to count.

 

"I don't know what to do with you," Charles says, in a rough and oddly wavering tone. Erik's own hands tighten into fists, uncomfortable with the chill that stirs in his own bones. The words themselves might be prosaic, and even Lehnsherr has heard similar sentiments from mothers of small children. But it is usually phrased as a question-- 'what am I going to do with you?' Rhetorical, of course, but it doesn't sound final the way the professor's admission does-- precluding possibility. At the same time, older mutant feels a typically contrary sense of satisfaction. Charles keeps him, holds onto him, though Erik has no specific purpose and is-- as so many would attest-- far more trouble than he's worth. Everyone else has always known exactly what to do with kleiner Erik Lehnsherr, and it has almost always been incredibly unpleasant. From another man the thought might be tinged with resentment but, to the self-styled assassin, it is merely an observation. A matter of biological fact, and therefore survival.
Schmidt was always very firm about eliminating that which had no value.

"You said we had no place for pity," Magneto reminds Charles, easily reading the younger man's expression.

(then let there be no pity between us, dearest adversary. no pity, and no mercy, for we hold one another hostage, my own, my excruciating thorn)

Eyes rolling closed, he savors the intermingling. Let Charles refuse to make up his mind-- 'yes, I'll touch you; no, I won't'; the odds favor Erik more when Xavier is indecisive, and vulnerable to temptation. He's familiar enough with this particular telepath to know this sub-verbal sharing stems from strong emotion, and will therefore be quickly mastered. A side-effect, no doubt, of their earlier coupling-- which is gratifying in and of itself. To still be wanted, despite the years and scars and wounds still raw; to still fit against one another naturally, though time has warped and devastated so. Something like lifeblood, this closed circuit between them; the balm of being seen and known which is only tangentially related to the general anonymity of mutantkind. It is thick and inescapable, sweet with both necessity and reward. To Charles, Erik has profound meaning, though many-- including the object of such affection himself-- find it mystifying. The professor's path would be so much easier without Magneto's contrary, seemingly incompatible stance.

 

"The same could be said for you," the telepath murmurs, looking far more composed than his mental projections would suggest. The poise is rote, as innate as Erik's instinct for high alert and fluid strategy. "And so we've traveled circuitous leagues to find ourselves standing exactly where we began."

The older mutant can't dignify that with a response, verbal or otherwise. He considers the interruption in their discourse quite pleasant, and is in no hurry to return to old arguments just at the moment. What he wants is the opulent eroticism of their connection, the blessed places where their curving trajectories intersect. For both of them, love is defined by sacrifice and protection, though the results appear as incompatible as the very polarities which repel and define magnetism. A sardonic, weary smile flickers on Xavier's mouth-- he may have overheard that comparison-- but is is gone as soon as his gaze shifts from Erik into the room's abundant clusters of shadows.

 

These pockets of darkness are tinted deep carmine and wound-brown, seemingly peopled with phantoms too fresh to allow Charles much peace. Lehnsherr finds he dislikes them just as much, though probably for different reasons. His cell had been full of inappropriate figments, shades cast by nothing which were nevertheless very clearly defined. Here the unlighted corners bleed into one another, too numerous to be monitored properly. Each shape cast has a solid, clear progenitor (books, a few photographs, microscopes, more books). Dear, lovely Charles must have well-behaved shadows, which politely obey the laws of physics. All the same, Erik knows they are not trustworthy-- too large, too much like open portals. Who knows what they might disgorge?

The gazes of both men are watchful and it seems now, even more than in DC, that the atmosphere is potent with choice. Signs and portents, just as those scrawled on the crumbling papyrus of the exiled; vague doom sketched by a clawed vagabond. What weighs on the professor is more than dread communicated by mere words and-- not for the first time-- Erik wonders what exactly happened between the numbed mobility of Paris and painfully flexed strength in Washington. It takes no special gift to divine the question in his own, pale green eyes. A question raised at Delphi, at the feet of the Sphinx, as Moses found his precarious way down mount Sinai: 'What did you see?'

 

It's Charles' turn to shake his head and answer with silence. For the first time, it occurs to Erik that the evening's events betray desperation on the part of the telepath. A decade may have passed, but it's clear Charles' is still his own harshest taskmaster. Yes, he took control of Magneto in the ruined stadium, but that had been driven by necessity. The touch had been gentle, reluctant, and all too brief. Something else has prompted Xavier to reach out for his old friend and former lover, despite the ambiguous nature of their parting; something made the professor give into a temptation he'd once barely been able to acknowledge to himself. The thought fires terror and melting elation in Erik-- a burning comet of ice. He fears the teeth of needle and scalpel, but not the beloved hands that might wield them.

"What do you think you're doing, Charles?" Lehnsherr asks, quietly enough to avoid any accusatory inflections. He poses the question this way only because saying 'tell me what's wrong' is impossible. Neither one of them would ever volunteer such information, never mind not knowing where the list would start.

A glare, but too morose to have much strength behind it. "I should never have brought you here. You never would have come back on your own." Still addressing Erik, but looking past him, as if at some reflection, "I don't know what I expected to accomplish."

Ah, but what's done is done. Dye cast; die cast. Now, Lehnsherr has this little gem over which he may gloat, when the night's silence is deafening and he is not welcome at the professor's door.

"Must it always be about leverage for you-- tactical, emotional, or otherwise?" Xavier asks, in a way that clearly indicates he doesn't expect an actual answer. Erik doesn't feel the tell-tale, moon-warm brush of silver by which he experiences the telepath's touch, but he's never been entirely certain the professor cannot read people undetectably. Whether the paranoia is justifiable or not, its more likely he's simply read Erik's expression which, even in Paris, seemed plain enough to him when others find it utterly inscrutable. "You're always welcome here," Charles continues. "You can always come home."

 

Which, to Erik's great regret, also means 'give up'. Such a fine one, his neshama, to cast stones about emotional manipulation! The price, though Xavier's damnable optimism may shield him from it, is painfully clear to the son of Jakob and Edie Lehnsherr. Most certainly, he can have a few happy years with Charles, perhaps even a decade or two-- and then watch everyone he cares for be destroyed. 'Death' and 'killing' are not the right terms for what they will inevitably suffer. Such words imply some opportunity for memorial, for tangental equality or value, which is utterly absent in the eradication he's known before.

"I won't let them erase you, Charles," he says, not bothering to hide the sheer ferocity in his tone. "I won't watch them make you into something denied the dignity of a name or a grave, or spend the rest of my life wondering what happened to you-- each imagining more awful, more impossible to bear, and so many of them." He keeps his mind very carefully clear of memories-- especially those of his mother's haunted eyes-- but cannot entirely banish the visceral sound of laughter, or how someone else's spit had dribbled down his face.

"And one automatically follows the other?"

"Open your eyes, Charles!" Lehnsherr grits out in frustration. "You admitted I was right on the plane-- have you changed your mind so soon? They already have come after us, subjected people we care about to fates even criminals are found too good for!" He must make an interesting sight indeed; a man kneeling, naked and passionately argumentative, on the floor. All the same, he has an animal instinct for the space around Charles, the quality of the atmosphere and aura that enshrouds his lover. What ground he could take now-- get closer, clasp those warm hands, take an angry kiss if such is the only further prize to be obtained tonight-- is marginal compared to the possibilities if he waits. That he has the option of motion at all is telling in and of itself. Their arguments have a rhythm just as their love-making, though far less enjoyable. So he presses harder, "The humans will not leave you be-- and I'll be damned if I let you fall on your peace-loving sword, much less lead the rest of us to do the same!"

That dear, brilliant fool has the nerve to look hurt at this, and Lehnsherr almost expects a burst of power or enforced silence in return. When neither occurs, he knows Charles has truly forgone listening, and suspects his beloved has become tangled in a very inconvenient side-effect of his vaunted morality: guilt. Erik persists, because persisting is what he does. "You can be wrong, Charles. Logan came from a world where you were."

The professor pales further, sparking what passes for regret in Erik's heart. Xavier hasn't looked well at all this evening, though it has the odd affect of giving him a consumptive's death-bed vibrancy. "Trask--"

"There are a dozen more just like him, and worse, Charles. I can promise you that."

"You don't know that, Erik." And there's that noble venom, eyes glittering like blue sky above a doomed beach. "You can't convict an entire race based on something they haven't done yet."

 

"How is it that you-- the telepath who can see into the hearts and minds of men-- are so bloody naive?" A furious snarl obscures the actual despair in the question, blurring it away in the grating of a predator's teeth and throat. If the sound is devoid of humanity, it is because Erik is not human-- Schmidt taught him that long before he could conceive of his power as anything other than an affront to the Order of G-d. The frustration of a monster, a biological freak. Unbowed, Xavier faces his friend with the same calm determination that once defined a hundred chess matches. That, and an empathy interwoven with the steel, as when he had prophesied that killing Shaw would not bring Lehnsherr peace. The inquiry may be directed at the professor, but the rage itself is not.

(friend/ first brother… in the ocean, you named me, called us the same when I had only been 'other'… foe/ treasure/ heart and blade beneath my armor…)

The man straining to bear up beneath the mantle of 'Magneto' is tried, and knows the road he
(has chosen)
must travel will eventually banish even the memory of rest. But Erik's anger is like that of the firmament which yielded 'Adamah-- ground created and then, by the whim of that same creator, starved of rain. Schmidt, Trask, the CIA; they have countless precedents, and there will be myriad interchangeable monsters in ages to come. All of this speaks to a pattern, but one so cruel as to defy contemplation. Better that life and all constituent elements should be an accident, than to acknowledge the maniacal imbecile at the loom.

 

Charles, who has felt Erik's frustration as though it is his own and still refuses to see, asks, "Is there no room in you for hope?"

There's an agonizing blade of gentleness in the inquiry, and a lesser man might laugh to combat it. Lehnsherr choses silence and instinct, moving quickly to sit on the edge of the armchair, level with professor's patient gaze. The perch is merely functional; he makes no attempt to cover himself, and draws Xavier's wheelchair closer with a tendril of power whose thoughtless instinct is likely the only thing that saves him from censure. Those azure eyes narrow, peering fixedly at the older mutant's face, but the professor merely reorients the wheels by pivoting slightly. Not a withdrawal, but a realignment, leaving them face to face but not, thanks to the arm of the apparatus, quite knee to knee.

Despite this show of defiance, Charles is still the first to look away. His face and the set of his shoulders are inscrutable, but Lehnsherr cannot imagine his own expression has betrayed anything either. Certainly not the vaunted optimism his lover desires. There's no telepathic contact either, though searching Erik's mind for hope would be equally fruitless. If it exists for him at all, it is not within.

To answer, he clasps the younger mutant's hands more tightly, turning a little as he must to draw them close to his own chest. Head bowed and chapped lips reverent, Erik lays gentle, accusatory kisses on the sweet pulsings of the wrists.

For a few beats, the professor looks wounded, but he rallies with an infantryman's heavy sigh. Magneto has a moment to ponder which (both?) of them is most guilty of perpetuating this philosophical attrition. The cultured voice murmurs, with seemingly equal speculation, "If we hadn't met in Miami, you never would have known."

There's no need to specify what, and Lehnsherr nods easily enough, his face a mask. He'd honed himself into a weapon, one with no life past that which it was intended to end. If not felled in the execution of his vengeance, he would have lived the rest of his likely limited days thinking himself a freak. He lets his own silence ask the question that naturally follows, frowning further when the reply still involves no mental touch.

"No," Xavier says, in a voice that contains not the slightest bit of remorse. He frees one hand, but only to trace fingers lovingly through the older mutant's hair. Thoughtless, Erik leans into it, so profoundly grateful it almost chills him. "No, I wouldn't take it back. I couldn't stand for you to think your power is anything but a gift."

'And do you always think yours a gift?' the metal bender wonders, unable to completely smother the thought. He doubts the telepath will respond, but still Erik leans forward to take those lips and stifle the possibility. Or rather, he presses his own mouth against the firm flesh and less familiar beard with all the violent submission of a penitent.

 

Briefly, it seems Lehnsherr's gambit has failed. That the professor will withhold himself in every way possible, insist on ending the night only with unanswerable questions and arguments thick with the dust of years. Then, with a sigh to echo Erik's own relief, Charles melts-- melts and, in doing so, sets the metal-bender back to hopeless burning. He is a man who would drink down the entire incandescent ocean, if given half the chance. Indeed, it's the Botticelli lips that would yield first, too lush for the beard to truly hide their succulence, They thrust toward one another with impossible gravity.

The position is somewhat awkward thanks to the professor's previous willful jockeying, but it is still far more than rewarding. Charles' hands roam Lehnsherr's bare shoulders eagerly, abandoning purchase in favor of continual caress. Those hot, insistent, but ultimately tender lips seduce Erik's tongue-- he's so primed that a chance brush of lengthened hair against his cheek provokes a frankly indecent moan. The professor's agile, articulate muscle slides against Lehnsherr's as though deliberately seeking something. Chasing, perhaps, the seed his lover swallowed so eagerly not so long ago. Shuddering with want, Erik takes care to process the associated images at the highest volume he can manage. If Charles won't listen deliberately, then let him overhear the growing coruscation of eroticism he inspires. There was a time when such things called almost irresistibly to the scholar, locking their minds together like moon-tide as they fed off one another's pleasure.

In lieu of this, Magneto's hands capture and cup the younger man's skull, exploring Charles' hair. A silky, tactile paradise his fingers are quite reluctant to leave, though he is also aware that the satin robe is all that bars him from those dark and eager nipples. He must be careful, though, and gentle in his own way. Already, he can feel a hesitancy filtering through his lover's touch. He doesn't need to be a telepath to read Charles' tells-- the little tensings of muscle and bracing breaths that indicate a return to that precise reserve. Xavier brought him here, though. Having willingly entered the lion's den, the other man ought to know very well just how far Erik can go to untangle him from his seemingly omnipresent and often-- at least in his lover's mind-- unfathomable guilt.

 

When he and Charles must part for breath, the metal-bender finds himself even more absorbed by the dark strands in which his fingers are entangled. They catch hints of heated-copper auburn in the dimming firelight, and Erik will burry his face in them before the night is through. The professor, breathing heavily, simply stares at him with hooded eyes; azure reduced to a mere rim by the void of pupils. Dragging in rough gasps of air, Lehnsherr presses their foreheads together in unspoken invitation: 'Take what you want.' His teeth grind together just slightly as his jaw clenches. After all the liberties Charles has taken tonight, does he honestly think it fair to make Erik beg?

Wincing, the telepath draws his lover's hands away from their languorous admiration of hair and skull. Erik has always been drawn the curve of the occipital and the ironically named atlas beneath it-- proper application of lips or fingers can make the professor melt. The seat of the soul, or so the Egyptians once said, and no one save Charles tempts Lehnsherr to believe something might be enthroned there.

"You don't beg, my friend. Don't think me as delusional as all that," Xavier murmurs, looking down in a way that prevents Magneto from rejoicing in any kind of leverage. "If you persist in the psychic equivalent of shouting, I have little choice but to hear you. And, as you can imagine, I'm a bit out of practice."

"Yet you brought me here," Erik reminds, not bothering to examine why the hijacking of his own will should now feel like a trump card. There's no room in his voice for reproof, at any rate-- not while he's eyeing the younger man's form with concern. The professor has over-extended himself a great deal these past few days, particularly after years of eschewing the mental muscle in favor of the mobility Lehnsherr stole. Only a fool would think Charles' recent feats would not take a heavy tole but, by the same token, his performance even under this strain is a testament to the raw power within that mind. All of the old prompts spring to Erik's lips has though spoken only yesterday: have you eaten, how long were you in Cerebro, is McCoy out of his verdammt mind? Questions he might once have asked with an arm already around the Englishman's shoulders, firm as iron but gently applied. Come away, rest, let me look at you. Instead, aware of his current precarious position, he offers, "You needn't have been so high-handed. I would have come, with only a word from you."
They both tactfully ignore the actual likelihood of of such an entreaty, with its tacit admission of need.

 

Xavier smiles, but it could never be mistaken for a look of consolation or pleasure. The little chuckle that follows has the same wet quality as the one on the plane, when he acknowledged Erik's innocence in the same breath as the CIA's guilt.

"You must believe me--"

"G-d help me, I do." With Erik's hands still in his grasp, the telepath kisses the knuckles, guiding svelte and deadly fingers to rest against his own neck and throat. The living warmth is drugging, but the pressure the younger mutant seems to encourage is alarming.

"Charles," Lehnsherr says urgently. "What--"

"You were right. I have done a great deal these past few days, haven't I?" the professor muses aloud, seemingly addressing the room at large. "So much done, and still so far to go." Then, in a voice that belongs to Charles but is still palpably not quite his own, "So much time wasted." The scholar shivers slightly, with the convulsive depth of the genuinely disturbed. As if, so the old saying goes, someone just walked over his grave.

Erik, never one to indulge the cryptic, focuses instead on the fact Xavier is biting his lip repeatedly-- a sure sign of stress. For the first time, he sees the smudgings of indigo beneath those vivid eyes and the slight tremble in the wide-palmed grasp as something other than simple symptoms of fatigue. Beneath the self-flagellating press of Charles' hands, he wills his own touch to become a caress. Focuses on the gentle hum of carotid, imagines the blood and constituent minerals leap a bit more readily at the contact. The telepath's abstraction is worrisome, and Erik is half-shamed to find his impulses divided between comfort and application of advantage. His overwhelming affection for Xavier always makes him even less inclined to play fair.

 

Silence spins out between them, and Lehnsherr shifts restlessly, on the verge of grand impulsive action. Why should they be betrayed by words again? His is not the only form hungering for physical union, no more than he is the only one coveting the sphere he and Charles can create between themselves-- a consecration that blocks out the world. When they argue, they do not do so with their bodies; they use words, because they are masters at miscommunication. For all the professor is enamored with mundane speech, it is perhaps Erik who understands the true facts most keenly. They speak to one another in a second language, neither one of them natives to the English tongue. The thought is a mist-whisper in his own mind, but he is skin to skin with his neshama, who will have no choice save to hear.

"Really, darling," Charles says, dry tone accompanied by a smile both tender and painful. "Must you persist in tempting me?"

Practically purring at having recaptured the telepath's attention, Lehnsherr murmurs, "Ah, liebling, but you make such a beautiful Faust."

"Isn't casting yourself as the devil bit out of keeping with your theology?" Trying, as he so often does in distress, for sangfroid. And failing miserably.

Erik shrugs eloquently, "I've come to think the devil likely made the world."

"And you'll remake it?" Not a challenge, but a hollow echo.

 

It's probably extremely unwise to point out just how pivotal his actions in D.C. may prove, but that doesn't stop Erik from thinking it. However, rather than respond in anger, Charles looks at him with a sort of ashen desperation that immediately evokes Lehnsherr's old impulse to shelter and enfold. The barrier of the wheelchair is all that impedes him now, as the professor no doubt intended.

"I'm equally guilty," Charles says, causing a tremor of surprise to run through the older mutant's form. "I'm angry with you-- absolutely furious, if you must know-- but I ultimately fell into the same trap. I violated so many of my own principles, and I did it on national television." So strong, those rower's arms slide up against Erik's own, completing as much of an embrace as physically possible. He holds onto the metal-bender so tightly he's on the verge of toppling out of his chair.

 

"I'm afraid. Erik, I'm afraid we've made things worse."

 

 

.